The prime minister seems to speak everywhere but in Parliament. He speaks at the launch of a book on a deceased Delhi RSS pracharak, he quotes Bob Dylan’s “a-changin’” to youth and the band Coldplay in Mumbai via Skype but keeps the honourable MPs of the opposition parties standing, with their demands that he address the House on demonetisation, which has given lessons in queue culture to the general populace. Some 55 people have died in the queues or after being denied treatment. But the PM will not speak in Parliament, which is in session.
Though Modi announced the demonetisation before the Winter Session began – and left for Japan to regale a gleeful NRI audience with comic references to weddings cancelled for want of money –, he could have done the gentlemanly deed of announcing the culling in Parliament instead. That’s why those buildings exist. That’s why the budget, though moved ahead to February 1, 2017, will still be presented in Parliament. The railway budget has died, but the budget is yet to. Imagine watching Arun Jaitley giving the budget speech on TV. Why then would one need Parliament at all? Perhaps it too could prove to be as dispensable as the one which was burnt down in the 1930s.
The PM should go to Parliament and reassure MPs. But despite the strength in the Lok Sabha and the party whip in the Rajya Sabha, he seems wary of doing so. What is the secret behind this unwillingness, or should we call it fear?
Sitting in the recesses of 7, Lok Kalyan Marg (the new name for Race Course Road), some of his advisers thought of gauging public opinion via the NarendraModi app. The decision of the head of government of a constitutional democracy will be put to vote in a new age way, even though a constitutionally accepted method of holding referendums already exists, though we have bypassed holding any such for decades.
One of the questions in the survey, to be precise the ninth one, asks: “Do you believe some anti-corruption activists are now actually fighting in support of black money corruption & terrorism ?” This is sheer leading the mobs to target whoever opposes the demonetisation: anyone protesting the inconvenience of accessing one’s own money is anti-national since doing so amounts to criticising the demonetisation meant to root out corruption and black money and terrorism.
What is going on in the brains trust that surrounds him? How can the efficacy of a landmark decision taken by the PM, which will be the subject of discussion for months to come, be voted upon over a private app? And who will make a fortune with the suddenly super-hit app that will see a massive spike in downloads if the people of India fall for it? Or even the Bhakts who want to give glowing reviews just for the heck of it. Further, apps also have huge security issues – a niggling matter to which not much thought appears to have been given.
Unlike the Reichstag which was burned down by the Nazis, the BJP should respect Parliament and its long journey. But what we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.